Saturday, June 30, 2012


I've been out and about lately. I just wanted to mention that the educarnival has been posted. Check it out if you get a chance.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Visit From the Goon Squad

Hopefully my students gathered that I genuinely like to read. (I'm not just blowing smoke. I'm not saying it because it's the 'teachery' thing to say... I really love reading.) I also hope I was able to pass that love to some of them.

I also like to think about what I read. As such, I'm posting my review of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning book A Visit From the Goon Squad here, as well as on goodreads.

While I wouldn't recommend it to students, I would recommend it to parents. It was very good.

Here's the review:

A Visit from the Goon SquadA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eleanor and Rabbie, Eleanor playing with rabbie

When I was young, my favorite toy was a stuffed rabbit. I took him everywhere, and I can't remember a time I didn't have him. I remember the time at my grandfather's house in Lancaster, Pennsylvania when my brother cut off his right set of whiskers. I was old enough to know they would not grow back. (Maybe that suggests I was old enough to realize playing with stuffed rabbits is neither very cool, very masculine, nor very mature... I didn't pick up on that, and I loved my rabbit.)

I remember giving the rabbit to my daughter, hoping she would love it as much as I did. She didn't play with it much at first - and maybe I was trying to hard, but I backed off a little, and the other day she was playing with Rabbie and it was an incredible feeling. Now she plays with a dozen baby dolls, and one stuffed rabbit whom she has rechristened, "Molly."

My favorite page in A Visit From the Goon Squad is page 255. Here's what I like: "Mom Spots the Toy Horse: I keep it on my windowsill. It's made of apricot shells. She and Dad got it when they lived in Pakistan. Mom told me once, 'We thought our baby might like to play with that horse.' After Dad and Mom found each other again, she packed up her life in New York and met him overseas. 'I never looked back,' she says. I still play with the horse sometimes, alone in my room. ...Even though I'm 12. ...I like to make the prediction come true."

If you've read the book, you know there is no way to capture that scene, or that chapter. In fact, style-wise, the entire book is unlike anything I've read before.

She writes an entire chapter (save for the last line) in second person. She writes an entire chapter as a power-point presentation. I have never seen that before. (Or if I have, I haven't remembered it.) Perhaps an even greater feat is that they both work. Beautifully well. Romantically well.

I am not a literary critic. I did not go to New York University and study under Harold Bloom, or some other fancy-pants literary scholar.

I'm just a son, husband, father, teacher, musician who loves to read. And the book reached me as few books have reached me.

I understand that books speak to different people in different ways. We read this as a book club book, and some members disdained the lack of plot. Maybe you're the type of person who has to read a plot driven book. To you I say, that was not the purpose of this book. Some books are plot-less and rambling and incoherent and pointless. This book had a purpose. There was intent. I've heard it said that in writing, every word must have a purpose. This may be the first piece of literary fiction where that ideal was attained.

This book is life, a web of connections that crisscross and connect throughout the whole. It is relationships created, relationships forced. It is a time machine speeding forward at a rate we cannot yet ourselves imagine. It is love. It is loss. It is never having loved at all.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 16, 2012

No, originality is not dead. It was dead until I came along.

So you google searched the quote. Good for you. I hope you feel good about yourself.

Anytime you use it be sure to send $5.00 my way.

I suggest you figure out who you are and then be that person. Yeah! Yeah person reading this, I AM talking to you.

Here are 1000 original ideas:

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah one thousand.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Edu Carnival and Music Video

Well, my post Acceptability and Going Pro was accepted for publication in the Edu Blog Carnival.  My thanks to Bellringers for hosting.  If you click on the Bellringers link, it will take you there and you can read all sorts of good education posts.

I think my favorite this time was Samuel Alito Thinks Im Funny.  The card the student made was hilarious.  I wish our class got to go to the Supreme Court.

If you don't have time to watch any of that.  Just kick back and watch Jimmy Fallon.  It's the summer, and this video is AWESOME!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Acceptability and Going Pro

The end of the school year is always a time for reflection. My "December 31st emotions" are procrastinators, waiting half a year before manifesting themselves.

Apparently, I'm not the only teacher like this. A teacher I respect was reflecting on the year (and perhaps years) and said, "I'm tired of it." My guess is that there was some internal dialogue going on there, because I didn't know what she was talking about at the time. Either that or I was zoning out, which also tends to happen at the end of the year.

I imagine I gave a quizzical look, as there's a lot that can burn a teacher out these days: the high stakes tests with huge margins of error, feeling unappreciated, unfunded mandates, lack of parental involvement, too much parental involvement, other teachers who complain about lack of parental involvement or too much parental involvement... come on guys - you can't have it both ways... I was worried that the teacher was about to say, "I'm just tired of 'kids these days.'" It's a line we've all heard from teachers suffering from burnout, and I personally hate it. The best part about being in education is the kids.

The teacher said, "Whenever I ask a kid what he's going to do when he grows up, he tells me that he's going to play in the NBA or NFL and I'm tired of it. ...No... you're not. At some point someone's got to tell them that those aren't attainable goals, and they need to focus on something more realistic."

...I had to think about this for a while. The teacher's right. There is no way that my entire 4th hour class will be making it into the NBA - even though that's what they all write down.

The teacher went on, "I've always just encouraged them to chase their dreams, and I'm tired of it. ...Or I'll say, alright but what are your other options in case that doesn't work out? 'Nothing,' they say. 'I don't need nothing else. I'm gonna make it.'"

This teacher has a point. If I encourage a kid to chase his dream of going pro, am I motivating him or setting him up for failure? I've always said things like, "Well, keep your grades up, it'll take a lot of hard work, stay out of trouble... those guys had to work really hard." Is this self-centered, short-sighted deception on my part? Or will it keep them on the straight and narrow until they figure it out for themselves?

So, has my job come to this? What should teachers do? My gut says, "let them figure it out on their own," but my brain is saying, "this teacher may actually have a point that could end up helping kids if done correctly."

What about the ethics or acceptability of dream crushing?

Friday, June 8, 2012


I hope the summer is treating you all well. Before we get too far into it, I want to issue a little warning: during the summer this reverts back to my personal blog - which means I blog about whatever I want. More on that later. For now, enjoy this gangsta auto-tuned version of one of my favorite educators: Mr. Rogers.